< Interviews - Ronnie Ford




12/7/2021 - I am going to do some more softball interviews with some special players. I just did one for Scott Virkus not too long ago...I am doing an interview with Ronnie Ford today!

Big Cat: I sent Ronnie a message about talking with him. I asked him if he had any photos of himself.. Was hoping he might have one with the Warren Motors jersey on.
Here is his reply:

Hey Mike good to hear from you, and I will check to see if I have any photos around. Not sure I was not into pictures back then . I was young and having fun and didn't need photos during that time but I sure do miss those days.

I would love to watch some of those games played back then If we could of had any tv coverage back in the heat of the battles when Softball was so competitive, the game was infectious. I fell in love with it once I started traveling around.

I had no idea it could be so fun. I was having balls hit to me in the outfield that I had the reaction time of at shortstop. I played pro baseball and slow pitch softball and there is no comparison to me the difference in the fun factor. Softball was an adrenaline rush for me. Like I said before I sure do miss the game of softball

Big Cat's Comments: When I first started playing softball in 1975 there were only a handful of players that the people and players talked about. In 1975 slow pitch softball was really starting to take off.. There were a number of excellent players in 1975 and Ronnie was one of the best at it. I mean the very best.. One of those players was Ronnie Ford. They talked about him because he played the toughest position on the field. Shortstop... At shortstop you uslually put your absolute best infielder that can move there.. Well Ronnie was the man for that job.. He could move so effortlessly when running for a ball, or climbing a fence... He had great hands....He really did do it better than anybody that I saw in the late 70's and eraly 80's..... Then when they talked about his hitting and poweryou had to know he did that as good if not better then anybody.. So to have a shortstop that could hit like that, no wonder Warren Motors went 94 and 2 and won the Prestigous ASA Title..... It also helps you understand why the Pro team the Detroit Caesars put together was as good as they were... With Ronnie Ford on the team It does not make me wonder at all why they were so good... The man could Truly Do It All..... In the photo above Ron is working with Craig Elliott and Owner/Sponsor Ken Sanders talking about the design of the Tenessee Thumper while promoting the Worth Product Line of Softball Equipment.Two of the very best working with your sporting goods company!


Here is Ronnie taking a cut against the Steele's team in Petersburg, Virginia...

Ronnie Ford Interview:

Big Cat: What city were you born in Ron?

Ronnie: Baltimore, Maryland...

Big Cat: What High School did you go to?

Ronnie: Woodlawn Senior High -located in Baltimore, Maryland....

Big Cat: What High School Sports did you play?

Ronnie: Baseball, football, wrestling, and soccer...

Big Cat: Tell us about your college career/did you go to college and play ball?

Ronnie: As a matter of fact I went to Kansas City Baseball Academy, Manatee Junior College.....

Big Cat: Tell us about your professional status-were you drafted out of college or high school in what sport and team?

Ronnie: I walked on with the Kansas City Royals in 1972.... The Royals had what they called a Rookie Tryout and I walked on and made the squad the first day.. Part of the agreement back then was I had to go to class during the day at Manatee Junior College and then practiced baseball in the afternoons and evenings... I stayed there for the 1972 season and then I moved up to Single A with the Kingsport Royals out of Tennessee.. I quit halfway through the season and ended up going back to Florida and playing softball with the Manatee All Stars ball team... So that lasted about a year and a half... Then in 1974 I joined the Copher Brothers in Florida softball team and that was the start of my softball career....

 

   

 

Big Cat: What is your status today Ronnie?

Ronnie: I am married, children, grandchildren? I Resides in Jacksonville Florida since 1980 Married for 43 years to Libby Ford (2) Daughters – Crystal Sparks, Kelly Martinez (4) grandchildren, Kelsey, JJ, Jordan, Brooklyn

Big Cat: How did you get your start in softball and how did you get to the upper level?

Ronnie: Manatee County All Stars 1974 Copher Brothers 1975 Warren Motors 1976 Detroit Caesars 77,78,79 Ken Sanders 80,81 Elite Coatings82,83,84,85 Vernons 86,87,88,89,90

Big Cat: What positions did you play and what is your best position?

Ronnie: Shortstop,third base,first base,left field,left centerfield,dh Left field by far was best for me

Big Cat: Why did you like the game of softball?

 

Ronnie: The game was fast and exciting, a true adrenaline rush to play with the top competition.

Big Cat: When did you first start playing softball and how old were you?

Ronnie: 1974 I was 20 years old...

Big Cat: How many weekends did you travel to play NSPC and Big Time softball?

Ronnie: I would travel from April thru September

Big Cat: Was softball a sport that let you continue after pro-or college to play the game that you loved growing up? Baseball?

Ronnie: Yes but I actually loved softball more because it was a faster pace and more excitement.

Jacksonville's Ford Set to Join Softball Hall of Fame; Former Warren Motors Star Dreamed of Playing for the Detroit Tigers

Byline: TENESHIA L. WRIGHT, The Times-Union 2002

Southside resident Ronnie Ford turned to softball after walking away from the Kansas City Royals' Class A team at the age of 17. Now 49, Ford has accomplished more in slow-pitch softball than he ever could have imagined in baseball. Ford, who hit an estimated 2,000 home runs in his 20-year career, said he has won eight Amateur Softball Association national titles, including one with Jacksonville's Warren Motors.

That's twice as many titles as Major League Baseball's Detroit Tigers, for which Ford aspired to play during his three-year professional softball career in Detroit.Ford, a native of Baltimore, will be inducted tonight into the ASA National Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

The ceremony is being held in Orlando in conjunction with the organization's annual meeting. At first, I just did softball as something to do, but once I got into higher levels of competition, it kept growing," Ford said. "I had a lot of fun. I was pretty big in softball in Detroit. …

 


Big Cat: In your younger days Ronnie, did you use softball as to try and provide for your family? Did you use softball as your full time job?

Ronnie: No because I have been in construction for 40 years now..

Big Cat: Did you get to play in Maryville, Tennessee at the Smoky Mountain Classic and how many times?

Ronnie: Yes and I will say that I loved going there to play..I went to Maryville and loved playing in front of those big crowds for about 10 years straight.

Big Cat: Besides the NSPC Championships games which other tournaments stick out in your mind? That you liked better than the others? USSSA, ASA, NSA, ISA. 

Ronnie: If more than one, tell you about the ASA 1976 National Tournament Warren Motors Finished season 94-2 with a win in in championship and I shared co-mvp with Mike Nye..... In the 1984 Smoky Mountain Classic I was chosen as the MVP and my team Elite Coatings was named Classic Champions. To me that tournament was always the best tournament of the year always the best competition in the country.....

Big Cat: Can you remember close to how many times you made All American in the ASA, USSSA, ISA, NSA, and the NSPC?

Ronnie: Not really I was never a stat man I loved playing the big games but never enjoyed the games as much when we were blowing out some local teams. I think made All American around 7 to 10 times or so. I was MVP of the pro league in 1978 and we won 2 championships .in the Pro League.

Big Cat: What would you say is your career highlight over all the years.   Over the course of your softball career is there any one thing that stands out in your mind that you were involved with or you watched someone else?

Ronnie: 1976 Warren Motors 94-2 championship and MVP, 1978 Pro Championship and MVP 1984 Smoky Mountain Championship and MVP. Just playing in the Pro League with the ex MLB stars like Norm Cash, Jim Northrup and Mickey Stanley was a fantastic experience. I leant my cleats to Joe Pepitone when his luggage was delayed. I threw out Billy White Shoes Johnson tryng to stretch a single into a double, I love the game of softball and all of the many great memories

 

Big Cat: Who is the best softball player you have ever seen play back in the day besides yourself?

Ronnie: There were so many great players and I was blessed to play on some great teams Craig Elliott I would have to say is probably the greatest power hitter I ever played with. He was so clutch and it didn’t matter if it was a 300’ fence or 330’ he could hit it out of the Grand Canyon.

Big Cat: Who was your favorite All Around player if you had to choose one?

Ronnie: One of the best all around players was Mike Nye because, he could hit for a 700 average and could chase down the balls in the outfield with the best of them.. Bill Pollock for a big man was so agile at First base and he had some great hands and made some amazing plays and could hit with tremendous power... Then you have to talk about Charles Wright also, because he fit that mold, Great hitter and Great glove.

Big Cat: What were some of the best teams you played against in the early 1980?

Ronnie: That is true Mike and my picks are kind of bias but I played with these guys and we fought many battles together. I know there are so many great players around but I watched these guys so often I have to give them their due. Your Steele's team were great! Howard's players were great, Jerrys were great, Campbells were great... Our era was so great to play softball in. I feel our 84 and 85 Elite teams were the best teams I played on because we had great power, great hitting and great fielding and our defense was so good during those years we stole so many outs and in Slowpitch softball that turns big rewards. One out could cost you 10 runs. Softball 70’s and 80’s was so much fun. Softball to me lost a lot when they started adding so many different classes and homerun rules. I liked it best when you got your 10 best men they got there 10 best and all homeruns counted and you gave it your all and let the fireworks begin. Loved those 50- 48 games.

Ronnie Played in the Pro Softball League and was voted MVP of the League in his first year....
 

 

Big Cat.I have to ask you this question Ronnie. What do think of today's equipment? Have you had a chance to go out and watch some ball or even try some of the new bats? I know Senior Softball is a fast growing industry.

Ronnie: As a matter of fact Mike I did get a chanceto go out and hit with Curt Hollis and some of his teammates and friends about 10 years ago. . Now I had both of my hips replaced and really did not want to play anymore softball. I loved the game when I played but if I can't play to my full ablity then I do not want to go out and not be at full go to play this great game.... So I went out to a baseball field with Curt Hollis just after having both of my hips replaced. My knees have been good to me but I think I might have to get some work done on the one.. I already had cartlidge removed some years back.

... Anyways the Stadium that we hit at was 325 feet to left field and I just took some good swings and was hitting it out. It really felt good to hit a few of them pretty good. The equipment is a lot different and better today with the bats.. When playing for Ken Sanders in 1981, 1982 we were working with the B-9, B-10, Series Tennessee Thumper bats.. If you remember Mike, those were some hard, hard bats.. I really liked working with Mike Cunningham and the Worth Co. with the bats we used for Ken Sanders. Those were some terrible bats, but it was the best technology they had at the time........ You had to kill it to get it go anywhere...

Big Cat. Would you consider the game of slow pitch somethng that you need to invest some time in to perfect your game?

Ronnie: I have always thought it was good to train. Practice what game you are playing and play hard when you play!

Big Cat. After all those years with those great teams you actually got to play with the team Vernon's when they won the ASA Major in Parma, Ohio . That had to be extra special winning yet another National Championship?

 

Ronnie: They are all special when you win but they are all differnt in their own way. Vernon Dubberly was a small time sponsor and when I quit playing with Elite after 1986 Vernon Dubberly said he wanted me to play for him. In 1988 we came in second in the ASA Class A. He got hooked from going to the Smoky Mountain and then from that time on He was like a kid in a candystore.

Big Cat: It looks like Vernon's had a real nice run from the time Vernon Dubberly picked you up. In the 4 year span Vernon's won the 1990 and 1989 ASA Class A Championship in Parma, Ohio and Midland, Texas. Then in 1988 and 1991 Vernon's were runner up both of those years losing to Smith Transports in 1988 and then Riverside in 1991... In 1988 you were tabbed as the Home Run Champion.. In 1990 you were named Most Valuble Player and your teammate Roy Eppley was awarded the Home Run Trophy with 13...

When it is all said and over with Ronnie you have had one excellent career playing a game that gave you so much enjoyment. God Bless and thanks for taking the time to talk with me about your fabulous softball career...

Ronnie Ford - ASA/USA Hall Of Fame....

Year Inducted: 2003
Hometown: Jacksonville, FL
Category: Men's Slow Pitch

Bio & Awards

Between 1974 and 1993, Ronnie Ford established himself as one of the top all-around players of his era. Originally, Ford wanted a career in professional baseball. But, when that didn't pan out, he started playing softball in 1974 in Manatee County, FL. That year, Ford smashed 124 homers.

1975 He appeared in in his first ASA national championship and batted .545 (6-for-11, one homer and five RBIs) for Copher Brothers. He finished the year with a .650 batting average, hitting 147 homers.

In 1976 Ford had a spectacular season leading Warren Motors of Jacksonville, FL to the Men's Major Slow Pitch National title. He batted .733 in the tourney and .707 for the year as the Motormen won the national title for the first time and finished the year 94-2--78 of the wins were consecutive. Ford hit 12 homers and drove in 27 runs in the national and shared MVP honors with teammate Mike Nye.

Between 1977-1979 Ford played in the American Professional Slo-Pitch League and was named all-league each year. In 1977, he batted .607, smashed 85 homers and drove in 183 runs. In 1978, Ford was named league MVP and batted .645 with 80 homers and 201 RBIs. In 1979, Ford paced the league in homers (43) and RBIs (122).

Ford returned to amateur softball in 1980 and hit 200 homers in 150 games for Ken Sanders Ford of Phenix City, AL. Between 1982-1985, Ford played for Elite Coatings of Gordon, GA and helped the team win 311 games while losing only 33. Ford earned All-America laurels three times (second team in 1982 (.571 batting average) and 1984 (.520 batting average) and first team in 1983 (.600 batting average) .

With his daughters growing up, Ford opted to play for a local team, Vernon's, and played Class A between 1988-1990. He was MVP of the Class A National Tourney in 1990, batting .738 and hitting nine homers to lead Vernon's to a second consecutive national title. Softball was a demonstration sport in the U.S. Olympic Festival in 1989 and Ford was selected to play for the South team, which won a bronze medal.

Between 1991-1992 Ford played Major division softball for Vernon's before concluding his career in the Super Division in 1993. In 1992, he batted .615 (195-for-312) for Vernon's, hitting 58 homers as it won the Major division national title. He batted .500 (11-for-22) in the nationals with seven homers and 13 runs batted in.

Ford starting out playing shortstop, but later in his career moved to the outfield to take advantage of his outstanding athletism and strong throwing arm. Time and time again, he would scale outfield fences to make an outstanding catch. He was the complete player who would make the spectacular play time and time again. He could run, field, hit and throw. He was named to the "SLOW PITCH NEWS" named Ford to the team of the decade for the 1970s as well as co-player of the decade with Mike Nye. When "SUPREME SOFTBALL," named its All-Time Team for the 20th century, Ford was named at one of the outfield positions.

Ronnie is in the ASA Hall Of Fame Now and Forever!

 

 




 
 

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